Film industry needs to reinvent itself: Actors Ram Charan and Akshay Kumar at HTLS 2022

Updated on Nov 13, 2022 02:55 AM IST

According to two of India’s superstars, Akshay Kumar and Ram Charan, the answer lies in the film industry reinventing itself. And, to erase the distinctions between films from the north and the south, and coming together to better the quality of Indian cinema ,

Actors Akshay Kumar and Ram Charan at the 20th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)
Actors Akshay Kumar and Ram Charan at the 20th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

New Delhi: It has been a difficult year for Bollywood. Only a handful of films have clicked at the box office and movies that were built up as blockbusters turned out to be duds. Even as the pandemic’s crushing effects on everyday life largely evaporated, people have not come back to the cinema, and definitely not to watch the big-budget Hindi potboiler.

So, what’s to be done?

According to two of India’s superstars, Akshay Kumar and Ram Charan, the answer lies in the film industry reinventing itself. And, to erase the distinctions between films from the north and the south, and coming together to better the quality of Indian cinema.

Speaking at the 20th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, the two actors spoke about their journeys, the ways in which cinema and the tastes of the audience are changing, and how one can deal with the challenges of social media criticism. And, for a bit, danced to hit numbers from each other’s movies.

“Things have changed. The audience wants something different. It is our fault that they’re not coming to the theatres. We have to give them something they want. We have to dismantle and rebuild, reinvent everything. We have to start all over again,” said Kumar, in conversation with Sonal Kalra, chief managing editor, entertainment and lifestyle.

Speaking about the paucity of box office successes this year, Kumar said that prices had to be slashed by 30-40%, including the fees actors charge, the cost of a movie ticket, and the amount of money it takes to go the cinema. “You have to do this if you want the public to come back to the theatre,” he added.

But such epic films could be made only when several actors come together for multi-cast movies. “Look at Hollywood, what kind of movies they’re bringing. It’s Marvel movies where everyone comes together and people want to see that. They want to experience and enjoy. The audience wants a story and much more. They don’t want to just give their money, they want a value for it,” he said. “We need to all get together and do big cinema,” he added.

Charan, the son of Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi who achieved mega success earlier this year with the record-smashing RRR, concurred. “You have to rethink and restructure the whole game moving forward, from the script to the making to the exhibitor. Everyone has to pitch in. Eventually, a good subject and a good script cannot be stopped. People will come to the theatre,” Charan said.

Both the actors spoke about changing audience preferences and viewing habits with the growing usage of over-the-top (OTT) platforms, and whether this meant that people had started leaning towards larger-than-life movies over the traditional family potboilers or romcoms.

“It’s very tricky at the moment. People require to see larger-than-life, an epic film like RRR or Sooryavanshi…I think people want to watch that big cinema and we have to try to start making that. You have to cater to OTT also and cinema going audience also. I just hope one day, people come for all kinds of cinema,” Kumar said.

The last few years have seen a number of films in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada doing well nationally. RRR -- which starred Charan and NTR Junior as Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, respectively, and collected over 1,200 crore at the box office – was only the latest film in this string of successes.

Charan acknowledged this success and said he always wanted these films to be accepted beyond their respective states. “Of course, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan ji also travelled across and did very well. My dad also did a couple of films. But today, we have become one unit – the Indian cinema unit,” he said.

Charan said he was proud to be living and working in this era, where all these influences coexisted. “I want to work with someone from Gujarati industry, from Bengali industry. I love Bengali movies, I wish someone from there comes and casts me. I want it to become a seamless industry where borders are blurred,” he said.

Kumar agreed. “This whole thing of Telugu cinema, Tamil cinema, Hindi cinema, Gujarati cinema – why can’t we just call it Indian cinema? I would prefer it like that” he added.

As actors who interact with fans and audience in a digital era, Kumar and Charan both get their fair share of negativity on social media. For Kumar, the way to deal with this negativity is to let the storm of criticism pass. “If you think something is right, absorb it and correct it,” he said. Charan said challenges were inevitable in the profession. “We have to rise like a phoenix from the ashes,” he said.

Kumar gave the audience an update on his promise of getting an Indian passport – a promise made at the HT Leadership Summit in 2019. “Having a Canadian passport doesn’t say that I am any less of an Indian. I applied for an Indian passport but the pandemic struck soon after,” he said. “Very soon my passport will be coming.”

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